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Voices of First Nations women elevated at Victoria's Walk against Domestic Violence

Sarah Smit -

On Victoria's annual walk against Domestic and Family Violence (DFV), advocates are calling for greater funding for Aboriginal family violence specialist organisations and an end to justice responses to DFV that re-victimise Indigenous women.

The Walk took place on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, November 25, and was attended by Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Sally Capp; former Australian of the Year and WAFV Ambassador, Rosie Batty; Chair of Respect Victoria, Dr. Kate FitzGibbon; and the CEO of Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre, Rita Butera.

Antoinette Braybrook, CEO of Djirra was also present.

She told the National Indigenous Times Aboriginal women and children experience family violence at a greater prevalence than non-Aboriginal women and face unique challenges when seeking help.

"What we see in our work is the mistrust in the police, [and] the way our women are criminalised rather than supported for safety," she said.

"We see that our women are blamed for the violence that they experience, and their children are removed because of that."

Braybrook said many of the systems intended to support those experiencing family and domestic violence do the opposite for Aboriginal women.

"We see a government putting so many resources into building systems that are designed to oppress the most marginalised and disadvantages in our community and that's the women and children, instead of investing that money into Aboriginal Community-Controlled organisation like Djirra here in Victoria and the other family violence prevention and legal services," she said.

Women's Safety Minister Anne Ruston announced in September that the federal government is working on developing a targeted National Plan to Reduce Violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children, a move that Braybrook welcomed.

"We've been loud and clear about our calls nationally for a dedicated national action plan and it's time to invest into dedicated responses to end violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women," Braybrook said.

"And it sounds like the government has heard us, with the recent announcement of the gathering to inform the development of the dedicated plan, we hope that that is the case."

But there's still a long way to go, and Braybrook said many reforms by the state government are a step backwards for mob.

"We just need the Victorian government to stop investing into systems that oppress our people," she said.

"We've seen bail reforms that mean more of our women land in prison, we see the increasing incarceration rates of our women, we see amendments to child protection legislation that mean more of our children will be placed in out of home and taken away from their mums, their families and their communities."

Last year Victoria Police responded to more than 93,000 family incidents, or one incident every six minutes â€" the highest on record.

Minister Williams called the past year one of "extreme difficulty" and said that it was a testament to the incredible leadership of DFV support services that they remained open during the pandemic.

"We should take the opportunity to reflect on the fact that we stand on the shoulders of all those who came before us," she said.

"There have been women in our community who have been trying to elevate the conversation and have been maintaining this fight for forty or fifty years, many of them are still embedded in our organisations, many of them still giving of themselves so that we might all do better.

"Without them without that decades long fight, we would not be here today and nor would the billions of dollars of investment."

The Minister said the solution is about changing the attitudes that drive gendered violence.

"For today, I want people to reflect on what they, themselves can be doing to look at what our role is in changing those attitudes and behaviours that we know lead to terrible outcomes for women and children across our communities," she said.

"But also looking at our strength-based approach, how we can build, proactively, strong communities that good for men as well as women, where men don't feel that they need to internalise their pain and grief and anger, so we can see better outcomes across a range of measures."

Commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Minister Ruston also announced plans for a dedicated First Nations women's leadership summit that would address rates of domestic, family and sexual violence against First Nations women.

The summit with be chaired by Bunuba woman and Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar and will continue the work of Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women's Voices) Project.

The project will also receive an extra $2.8million of funding in the following three-years.

By Sarah Smit


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